The iPhone 14 Pro marks a big change with the Dynamic Island and a 48MP camera, check out our review to see how these upgrades panned out.
The iPhone 14 Pro marks the second time Apple’s flagship smartphone has gone through a major redesign in the past two years. Although it might have a very similar silhouette, a lot has changed – including the new always-on screen, pill-shaped cutout for the Face ID camera, and a new suite of rear cameras.
Of course, there is new internals too, but this iPhone Pro refresh feels excitingly packed, which is astonishing when last year’s iPhone 13 Pro already proved to be a substantial upgrade.
iPhone 14 Pro – Design and Features
Last year’s iPhone refresh shrank the notch and now the iPhone 14 Pro swaps it out for an even smaller pill-shaped punch out that Apple calls the Dynamic Island. Absurd marketing names aside, the actual camera hole is considerably larger than the one made for selfie cameras on most Android cameras, perhaps because this space also houses the depth-sensing face ID camera.
The new notch is called the Dynamic Island because it dynamically grows and shrinks in size. If you activate Face ID, it grows into a square that shows a green check mark upon recognizing your visage. This element also turns into a sort of pseudo taskbar for tracking up to two things you’re doing.
For example, if you’re streaming music or video and swipe away from it, it’ll expand the pill-shaped hole into a longer one that shows an icon of your media and an animated waveform. And if you activate a timer on top of playing media, it bisects the Dynamic Island into a pill for your media and a smaller circle to show you your countdown. You can also tap either section of the Dynamic Island to easily return to either task.
Furthermore, some app developers are finding fun ways of using the Dynamic Island for games and other interactive uses. Hit The Island, for example, turns the pill-shaped hole into a pong paddle you need to bounce a ball off of.
Aside from the Dynamic Island, the iPhone 14 Pro’s 6.1-inch screen has seen some pretty extensive upgrades. For one thing, it’s now an always-on display. Interestingly, Apple’s implementation basically just dims the lock screen instead of turning it into a black-and-white placeholder like most Android phones. This uses up more power in the long run, but having a dimmed display means you can see your notifications at any time. It’s also handy for seeing the new row of widgets that came with the iOS 16 redesign (which include weather, battery life, and your fitness rings) whenever you look over to your handset.
One small physical change to the iPhone 14 Pro is it has one fewer void in it for a physical sim. All the new iPhones this year have switched over to digital eSIMs, which is a bit of an inconvenience if you want to travel to another country and easily buy a local SIM to jump networks. This means you’ll need to do a bit more planning and buy a foreign eSIM ahead of your trip.
As a sort of consolation prize, every new iPhone will also come with emergency satellite communications so you can make an SOS call to 911 when cell service isn’t available. This service launches later this year.
iPhone 14 Pro – Gaming and Performance
The iPhone 14 Pro is extremely fast thanks to the new A16 Bionic chip, which is exclusive to the new iPhone Pro models this year. Apps open quickly, switching apps feels instantaneous, and iOS 16 runs consistently smooth – especially when watching the Dynamic Island grow and shrink constantly.
That said, the performance difference between the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro isn’t really perceptible. Even the Geekbench 5 scores (seen below) don’t show a gulf of difference either. What makes the A16 Bionic special really comes down to the more efficient 4-nanometer process helping to extend battery life – but we’ll get more into this later.
iPhone 14 Pro: 1,889 (Single), 5,120 (Multi)iPhone 13 Pro: 1,747 (Single), 4,531 (Multi)
All this performance makes the iPhone 14 Pro fantastic for playing games. This phone has no trouble keeping up with the latest Apple Arcade games like Shovel Knight Dig and Fantasian. More impressively, you can play indie games that were once only available on console and PC like Gris+ and Goat Simulator+. The graphical power of the iPhone 14 Pro is awe-inspiring.
iPhone 14 Pro – Camera
The iPhone 14 Pro has a 48MP main camera now, marking the biggest resolution jump since the iPhone 6s first introduced a 12MP camera seven years ago. The resolution increase is welcome, but the bigger deal is a much larger sensor allowing it to render more bokeh and absorb more light for low-light photography.
Now, to be clear, the new sensor might have a total 48MP resolution, but for the most part it still shoots 12MP photos. It does this because it’s a pixel-binning sensor, which means it combines every four pixels into one larger pixel for better color fidelity and low-light performance. It’s far from the first phone to do this as almost every Android phone with a high-resolution camera does the same thing.
Apple’s implementation is a little unique (or was until the Google Pixel 7 Pro was announced a week later) in that you can also use the main sensor as a 2x camera. While shooting as a 2x camera, the iPhone 14 Pro shoots with only 12MP in the center of its main 48MP sensor. It’s essentially a digital crop that gives you surprisingly clean photos, though image quality does suffer in low-light situations.
To actually shoot in a full 48MP resolution, you have to shoot images in Apple’s ProRaw format. This gives you a lot of headroom to edit and recover details, but results in massive file sizes, so I wouldn’t recommend shooting everything in this format.
Compared to the older iPhone 13 Pro, the quality of images from Apple’s latest smartphone is a clear step up. Photos from the iPhone 14 Pro have more detail, and you get a bit more background blur thanks to the larger sensor.
What’s more impressive is how Apple’s new Photonic Engine has improved the image quality of all the other cameras, which are mostly holdovers from last year’s model. The dynamic range of images from the telephoto and ultrawide cameras is improved overall.
Also, there’s a new Action Mode for videos that adds a bunch of stabilization, reducing the need for a gimbal if you don’t want shaky footage. It definitely adds some much-needed smoothing if you shoot any videos while walking – to the point that it’s on par with the GoPro 11 Black I’ve also been testing. However, there’s still a noticeable amount of bobbing as you make your steps. Shooting Action Mode videos also require a lot of light, so you’ll only be able to use it in broad daylight, and their resolution is capped at 2.8K.
iPhone 14 Pro – Battery Life
The iPhone 14 Pro comes with an ever so slightly larger battery, with 3,200mAh of capacity compared to the 3,095mAh battery found in the iPhone 13 Pro. Despite the larger battery, I ended most heavy days of usage with 30-20% battery life, which was on par with what I got with the older iPhone 13 Pro.
That might not sound like an improvement, but is still impressive when you consider the extra power usage from the always-on display. The only reason the battery life stays largely the same is all thanks to the efficiency improvements from the new A16 Bionic processor.
Turning off the always-on display dramatically improves the battery life of the phone, to the point that I was ending days with 40% battery life. However, this removes a big piece of utility, not to mention a headlining feature of this newest iPhone.
As for recharging times, Apple’s wired 20W fast charger can return 28% battery life after 15 minutes and 57% after 30 minutes. MagSafe charging is convenient but a bit less efficient, giving 15% battery life after 15 minutes and 30% after 30 minutes.
This story originally appeared on: IGN - Author:Kevin Lee